The Revised SAT Test

thThe Revised SAT Test

     The SAT is a standardized test for most college admissions in the United States. It seems that ‘The College Board’ has plans to overhaul this college entrance exam and make it better align with what children should learn in the classroom.  According to The Associated Press, it is supposed to be more grounded in the real world. The problem with this is that the real world seems to be getting farther away from the academic excellence that we have enjoyed for so long. One of the biggest changes in this test is that the extra penalty for wrong answers, which discourages guessing, will be eliminated. Also, the essay portion of this test is to be optional and scored separately. Another change is that the test will no longer contain certain fancy words that some people do not know, thus making it fairer and help to level the playing field. Furthermore, vocabulary cards will no longer be necessary when studying for the exam!  Folks, pardon me for being a bit skeptical of these improvements. To me, it sounds like the test is being dumbed down in a way that will hurt, not help, the children of our nation. With respect to the essay, I find the comments of Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker to be spot on. She said, “The essay, for instance, was not a call for Emersonian excellence, but was a way of determining whether a student can compose a coherent sentence. You know, subject, verb—all that stuff —not to mention whether one can think.”

Other real world stuff is that as soon as students hit college, one of the first things with which they must deal is the term paper, which is essentially an ‘essay’ of sorts. I cringe to think of what those professors must see in many of the papers that come across their desk. Many colleges, including my own Alma Mater, have what is known as an exit exam. In addition to passing your courses, you have to take a comprehensive exam before you are allowed to graduate. This exam is little more than another essay that covers a subject in your major. The subject is assigned to you on the hour of the test, so you must be prepared for anything. For composition, this test then has to be graded by someone in the English department, and then for content by someone in the department of the respective major. The point here is that composition follows these young people all the way through college, but the basics should be learned in high school. To allow them to enter college being drastically un-prepared in the basics is not helping them. There are remedial courses available to help bring students up to par, but to allow them go before college professors unprepared is like leading a lamb to the slaughter. The hurt and humiliation they may suffer when getting back those papers can be devastating to young egos. The essay portion of the SAT should remain mandatory, not optional.

The SAT has been called an instrument of privilege because students from higher income families tend to perform better.  Parental educational attainment does indeed tend to be passed down to children, but it is inconceivable that this is somehow unfair and not a good thing. Many well respected people, like Robert VerBruggen of the website ‘Real Clear Policy’, say,”Income gaps are evident in basically every academic measure we have.” I suspect this is true on every continent and every society. It is simply part of the human condition, and it is how the world works. Too many of our young people do not compare well to much of the rest of the world. The problem is not the more difficult SAT, but us! We must do a better job of educating our children. Dumbing down the SAT will not help anybody.

Tony B. Ratliff, Sr.

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